Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dieciocho de Septiembre

Chile celebrates its National Day on 18 September, a day filled with asados (barbecues), meat (lots of it), dancing and kite-flying, and huasos (cowboys!). Although we were camped on a remote beach on the day itself, we enjoyed the build-up and we did some dressing up and celebrating beforehand. 

Animales del Desierto

The desert flowers attract a large variety of birds and insect life, and we saw some beautiful birds and butterflies as well as the regular desert animals. Our favourite animal was the guanaco, part of the llama family, and our least favourite was a scorpion which we found 2m away from our tent!

Desierto Florido

Every 4-5 years, when there is more than 7mm precipitation, the arid Atacama Desert bursts into bloom. Dormant seeds beneath the sands explode into life and colour in a phenomenon called the Desierto Florido (Flowering Desert). It is impossible to predict the year of the Desierto Florido (it last happened in 2008) and it only occurs between September and November, so it was a special treat for us to see it this year. The first photo shows the contrast between a typical year and a flowering year. Both photos were taken in the same spot in the same week of September.

Below are a selection of our photos taken from the Parque Nacional Llanos de Challe and the mountain road between Huasco and Punta de Choros. Enjoy!

Camping Road Trip

Over the National Day long weekend, we drove north on a 1600km road trip to the start of the Atacama Desert. At the small town of Huasco we turned towards Tres Playitas ('three little beaches') and set up camp on the dunes for two nights. 

The reason for this trip was to see the desert flowers, a spectacular natural phenomenon in the dry desert (see next post!). We also spent one night in Apolillado ('moth-eaten beach'). The trip was a huge success and we spent some quality time with friends, sharing wine around the camp fire and falling asleep to the sound of the waves. 

We drove on dirt tracks through some beautiful mountain passes and enjoyed the vast flower-covered landscapes. This was definitely a great way to explore a new part of Chile!

Salomon K42 Trail Race

On a sunny, spring morning, Daniel joined 500 runners to participate in a trail race in the foothills of the Andes. The event was sponsored by Salomon, and two of the competitors were Salomon athletes who took part in the recent Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (one of the biggest ultra marathon trail races in the world). A helicopter carried a film crew around to film the race, and the race video and more photos will be put up on the race website: 

Daniel ran in the 42km category in a time of 4:30, finishing in 5th place overall, and 2nd in his age group. Well done! 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Costa Cochagua

The British Embassy in Chile has a seaside "cottage" in Costa Cochagua, a wealthy compound near the coastal town of Maitencillo. We were invited to spend the weekend there with our friends.

We enjoyed long walks along the beach, huge amounts of food and several rounds of pisco sours, after which we planned our retirement home based on the beach houses of Chile's millionaires.

Cerro Santa Lucia

Nestled in the heart of Santiago is a small fort on a small hill, the very spot on which conquistador Pedro de Valdivia founded Santiago in 1541. We spent a lovely morning winding our way up the stone walkways and crumbling narrow staircases to the viewpoints at the top, followed by a well-earned late lunch in Barrio Lastarria, a fashionable, bohemian neighbourhood.